Carl Paladino, stung by Byron Brown’s repudiation of his support, has turned on the mayor, calling him a “mope” and saying voters should stay home on Election Day.
In an interview with Investigative Post, Paladino said he was finished backing the four-term incumbent. He said he advised anyone who asked him to stay out of the race.
“I got all kinds of people calling me: ‘What should we do?’” Paladino said. “I tell them, ‘Stay home, stay home.’ Let the chips fall where they may.”
Paladino claimed many business people shared his opinion and were withholding financial support for Brown’s write-in campaign. Like him, he said, they have decided to sit out the campaign and work with whomever won.
Though Paladino had no kind (or even printable) words for Walton, the Democratic nominee, he said she poses no real threat to the city’s business climate.
“You know, developers really don’t have anything to be afraid of. She’s not going to go in there and shut off development like she said,” Paladino said. “Most developers, they’ll get along with whoever’s there, you know, and do whatever it takes.”
Paladino also claimed a number of Brown’s top officials — people to whom the developer attributed Brown’s successes as mayor — were ready to jump ship.
Specifically, he named Kevin Helfer, the parking commissioner; Brendan Mehaffy, the director of strategic planning; and Jim Comerford, the permits and inspections commissioner.
Paladino said all three were frustrated at having to answer to Deputy Mayor Betsey Ball, who was responsible for Brown’s failed primary campaign strategy and continues to steer the mayor’s write-in campaign. He said all three were contemplating leaving City Hall because Brown continued to defer to Ball.
“He has her dictating to the guys that made him? He wouldn’t have been [successful] over the past 16 years without them,” Paladino said.
“If he wants to [sideline] these good guys around him, the guys that made him? Well, I don’t want him as mayor. I’ll take the … broad.”
The Brown campaign declined to comment.
Helfer, Mehaffy, and Comerford all denied Paladino’s claims.
Two weeks ago, a number of sources in and out of City Hall told Investigative Post that Helfer — whose career Paladino has supported since the 1990s, and who has been a part of the Brown administration for a decade — was considering quitting his post. One source said Helfer would form a political campaign committee to aid Brown’s write-in campaign.
Helfer has twice told Investigative Post neither rumor is true.
“I have made no plans on either issue,” he wrote in an email two weeks ago. Asked again last week, he responded, “Retirement is not imminent.”
Comerford said he was “absolutely not” leaving on account of friction with the deputy mayor.
“I have a good working relationship with Betsey Ball,” Comerford wrote Investigative Post in an email.
Mehaffy denied that he has an issue working with Ball or that he is considering leaving his post as a result. He noted he is actively campaigning for Brown’s reelection.
Brown hired Ball as his chief of staff and deputy mayor in 2015. Previously, she was legislative affairs director for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and chief of staff for state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers, currently the Senate Majority Leader. Her brother is Timothy Ball, the city’s top attorney. Her husband is Peter Cutler, the mayor’s former communications director, who now runs communications for Erie County Medical Center.
Another brother, R.J. Ball, works for Empire State Development and helped lead a “Keep Byron Brown” rally in front of Sahlen Field a few days after Brown lost the June 22 Democratic primary.
The same day as that event, Paladino attempted to rally the business community to underwrite Brown’s write-in campaign.
A number of business people told Investigative Post at the time they were nervous about Walton and open to backing Brown, but wanted no part of the effort if doing so linked them with the controversial developer.
For his part, Brown distanced himself from Paladino soon after the primary.
“I did not seek, nor will I accept, support in any form … from Carl Paladino,” Brown said in a statement on June 27.
The next day, at the press conference announcing his write-in campaign, Brown insisted he and Paladino “are not close.”
Relations between the two have not always been so frosty.
Monday, Investigative Post cataloged the decade-long detente between the two, during which the Brown administration facilitated many Paladino projects by supporting tax incentives, zoning variances, the sale of public property, and designated developer status for prime development parcels.
In turn, Paladino praised Brown’s administration.
“He’s come a long way,” Paladino said during a 2017 interview with The Buffalo News. “I’ve come to respect him. He’s gotten rid of some onerous people around him and has gotten some competent people. They are good public servants. They are more business-friendly. They are running a good government.
“We are supporting him,” Paladino added. “We will continue to help him get elected.”
The Paladino family and their companies donated $7,634 to the mayor’s previous two reelection campaigns, in 2013 and 2017. The Brown campaign also hosted two fundraisers in 2019 at 500 Pearl Street, a Paladino property. The Brown campaign paid the venue $11,500 for the events.
That’s all over now, according to the developer.
Paladino claimed many business people in town — “those that I’ve talked to,” he said — have adopted his wait-and-see approach.
He said it was a political mistake for Walton to call out business leaders like himself and members of the billionaire Jacobs family, who pumped last-minute cash into Brown’s primary campaign, to no avail. According to Paladino, doing so risked driving them to support Brown’s write-in effort.
The mayor made the same blunder, Paladino said, in preemptively rejecting his support.
“He goes in the paper and he says, ‘I don’t want Carl Paladino’s support.’ He said it in the paper,” Paladino said.
“I call [Buffalo News politics reporter] Bob McCarthy: ‘So did he say that? And he said yes. It didn’t come out of [Betsey] Ball. It came out of Byron’s mouth.”
Asked if, despite his public disavowal of Paladino, Brown had sought the developer’s assistance, Paladino said the mayor had not.
“He wouldn’t have the [courage] to do that. He doesn’t have any [courage]. He’s a [expletive] mope.”